What is white noise?
White noise is simply a constant background sound that drowns out other sounds.
How does it help you sleep?
When you’re awakened by a noise, it’s not the noise itself that causes you to wake up – it’s the CHANGE in the noise level that wakes you. When you’re falling asleep in a quiet room, have you ever noticed that you hear every noise in the house? You hear the sound of the house shifting, the wind outside, the clock ticking in another room, a car driving by outside, etc. These same noises will still be processed by your brain whenever you fall asleep and the louder ones can wake you or disturb your sleep. Sounds that you hear in the night may disturb your sleep, even if they do not wake you up.
When a consistent sound (such as a fan) plays in the background while you sleep, it masks the abrupt changes in noise levels that may occur. This helps you fall asleep easier and makes it less likely that your sleep will be disturbed by noise during the night.
After falling asleep to white noise, you’ll notice how the noises that you normally hear are now barely noticeable and how you feel more rested in the morning.
The following articles detail sleep research that support the statements made in this article:
The influence of white noise on sleep in subjects exposed to ICU noise
Listen to the noise: noise is beneficial for cognitive performance in ADHD.